Friday, August 31, 2007

Con-Ed woes continue

It's Friday and I still have no gas. Again. It's also a good possibility that it'll be the same story next Friday. On Monday, my Super contacted me and told me I had to call Con-Ed to get the electric bill put in my name. She seemed shocked that I hadn't done it yet. I told her I was waiting for the gas to get turned on. She told me they wouldn't turn it on until they had a name for the account. Fine. Whatever. Bureaucratic red tape is nothing new to me. We made arrangements to talk again on Tuesday. I called Con-Ed, waited through a 30 minute hold and finally got the bill in my name. I gave them the Super's name and phone number to set up an appointment to turn on the gas. I called my Super back to let her know Con-Ed would be calling.

Monday night I hear nothing.
Tuesday I hear nothing.
Wednesday I hear nothing and start freaking out.

I want gas. I want to cook. I can't afford to keep eating out or buying microwavable dinners that taste like plastic. I want to cook pasta on the stove top. I want to bake pizza in the oven. I want to sauté and broil and all those good things. More annoying, my Super said she would call me back and hadn't.

On Thursday at work I was livid. No gas, no word, no nothing. I called the Super again as I had been every day but her cell phone mailbox was full. Probably from messages from me. I tried her at work but there was no answer and no voicemail. I realize that three days is nothing but it's been two weeks now and my microwave is still sitting on top of my stovetop and I am sick of it! I considered calling 311 for advice but in reality I knew the situation wasn't that bad yet.

I decided to call my broker. I have to give her props - she was incredibly helpful. I initiallly asked for another contact at the building management company but that was not available. So she tried calling the Super with the same result. Actually, I found out that the woman isn't actually the Super, she works for the management company. Even better! (sarcasm there) I'll refer to her as the not-Super from now on. With no answer, she offered to drop by the neighborhood on Friday (today) and get someone to get in touch with my not-Super. Anything.

Today my not-Super called me back. No "I'm sorry I disappeared." Notta. You may recall the situation before I moved in - she didn't want to call me because the place was not ready. I should have known it would happen again. So I took the opportunity to ask her every little question I had - who changes the name on the door buzzer, what do I do with the boxes from my shelves, what the heck is going on with the gas, who can I call when I can't reach you? She had to talk to people about all the questions. Con-Ed is coming next Thursday to check on the apartment across the hall's gas line so she's going to try to get mine done at the same time. Not exactly confidence-inspiring but it would have to work.

I was about to say I didn't feel comfortable paying rent until the situation was resolved but she beat me to the punch - thank God. That lets me know that she has my best interest in mind. I truly appreciated that. This has just been so frustrating, especially not being able to get in contact with her. I'm not even a tenant who usually bugs. I feel like this all should have been taken care of before I moved in. Let's hope this ends soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

UES reference

When I was a young kiddo, if you wanted to learn about something you broke out the dusty encyclopedia. You guessed which book the entry you were looking for would live in, and had a 50-50 chance of either finding the entry or being told to "see volume 21, T-V."

Of course the Internet has made things a lot easier in terms of finding information, but I do kind of long for the days of organized information. Last night I spent a good 25 minutes combing the NYC Rent Guidelines board site looking for the list of rent stabilized buildings which is located NOT in the site's apartment guide but in the housing research section. A friend of mine was looking at an apartment on the UWS and wanted to know if she made the list.

This just goes to show that the information is out there but not always where you think. Since I'm a bit move-poor at the moment I've been satiating my shopping addiction by looking for cool stores to shop at in the UES. The problem is the UES is so big! 59th st to 110 st. Does anyone else not see a need for a split? The neighborhoods are not defined enough. Try looking for stores in Lenox Hill and all you'll find are links to the hospital and the veterinary clinic.

Then again, sometimes the information is exactly where you think but you find a roundabout way of getting there. I worked with web usability a lot as a freelancer and I'm always amazed in tests when people miss the huge button in front of their faces and instead click through 3-4 layers of a site to find their destination. The common sarcastic reply - 'My way was more fun though.'

I started searching for stores at, because they seem to have everything Manhattan-related there and they're snarky without being inaccessibly so. Somehow I ended up going from there to the Wikipedia entry for the Upper East Side which is where I should have started. Because from there I was linked to which has a handy list of shops of all sorts organized alphabetically with fully detailed address listings including cross streets! Hot damn. My new favorite site. I already found out that 3rd Ave has an Urban Outfitters, a Scoop and a Victoria's Secret, all nearby. The site also had links to several blogs written by residents. These are exactly the kind of resources I need.

Later on, I realized that doing a simple Google search for 'Upper East Side' would have yielded the same results. My way was more fun though.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Out of gas

I'm so D-U-N done, as in I'm so done unpacking. Unfortunately, I'm only done unpacking in my head because in reality there are still boxes all over the place. And where there's not boxes there is clothing that I'm feeling too lazy to hang up. And where there's not clothing there are folded up boxes waiting to go into storage. And where there's not folded up boxes there is me, looking around hopelessly.

It's not that I have too much crap (or if I do I'm still in denial); it's that I have don't have furniture to put the crap on. And I may not be able to afford said furniture for awhile. For example, I sold my desk and office bookshelf from Connecticut because they were too big for my apartment. To replace them, I really want this awesome Incognito Compact Office from Crate & Barrel but I have to pay off my move first. I also really like the Balcony Wardrobe but I'd have to remove a piece of my current furniture to fit it in. Then there are the three additional Lack shelves I want from IKEA. This shit adds up.

Yesterday when I came home from work I wanted to escape it all - so I finally went outside and enjoyed my backyard for an hour or so. It was so nice to just sit outside, listen to the breeze and relax. I swear, the air is better back there from the tree aspiration. When I came in I felt refreshed enough to actually unpack some more crap. I can't wait to have the place finally set up.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I want a best friend

As in, the four-legged kind. It's been a dream my whole life. I want a dog! My family had one before I was born - a little toy poodle named Perry who lived to be 15. They like to make fun of me because when I was a kid I guess I claimed to remember playing with him (like I'd really know the difference as a youngin?). But really I think my claims were sad little cries for help - get me a dog! Unfortunately my sister is pretty allergic so I went without.

I'd dream of having a black lab like my neighbor or a lab cross like the neighbor on my other side. A golden retriever lived across the street and I had friends with Huskies, beagles, and terriers. I felt like I was the only person without a four-legged best friend. I'm an avid equestrian but it's not the same. Horses don't really chase Frisbees or give high-fives.

I attended college in Colorado and was dying for a pup by then. I tried to live with friends who had a dog but it never worked out. The closest I came was a boyfriend who had one. After college, when I came back to Connecticut, the only thing that stopped me was that I was working two full time jobs. At my last house, one of my roommates and I really wanted to adopt a dog and name it Brady (a combination of Tom Brady and Brady Quinn. In fact, in my book the dog's name would have been Tom Brady Quinn). A beagle preferably. We just never did it.

Excuses kept piling up, bringing me to today. I suppose it's a good thing I didn't have a dog because it would have been harder to find an apartment in NYC. As luck would have it though my building is pet-friendly. I know at least one tenant has a dog because I hear its tags jangling as it romps down the stairs for walks and I longingly wish it was mine.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking from work to the 6 train when I passed a guy walking an especially cute dog. Let me qualify this by saying I'm not the kind of girl who falls for the shi-shi Pomeranian-Chihuahua-Shit-Tzu-tiny fluff that most love. I want a dog who could live on the farm with me - a lab, a golden retriever, an Aussie Shepherd etc. But since I live in the city I'm willing to compromise with a Whippet, a mini Schnauzer or something like that. So that this dog caught my attention was surprising. It had a fox head and a bit of a fluffy coat and was about the size of a beagle. Man was it cute! I had to ask its owner what kind of dog it was. I found out it is a Shiba Inu.

I had to memo it in my phone, and I asked him to spell it to make sure I had it right. As soon as I got to my apartment I plopped on my bed and started researching. I checked the American Kennel Club first. Then I looked at several apartment dog sites to see if the Shiba Inu was listed, but it wasn't. Finally I checked to see if there are any breed rescues around. There is in fact an NYC Shiba Rescue. And how excited was I to find that there is a Shiba Inu named Roxy available to adopt right now! (Kind of corny I know. But I was excited.) I almost immediately filled out the form.

All important decisions are worth sleeping on, so I didn't take action immediately. The next day during my lunch break I made a list of pros and cons:

- I'd have a dog, fulfilling a lifelong dream
- my work is pet-friendly, meaning I could bring the dog to the office regularly
- i have a backyard. a fenced-in backyard.
- a dog would encourage me to get out and exercise
- a dog would be a great companion and would never leave the seat up
- a dog would fill the animal void left now that I can't horseback ride
- a dog may help me meet cute boys or make new friends
- a dog would be fun!

- I'm young and single. this means I would be out a lot. dogs like attention. it's hard to give attention when you're not home
- a dog needs to be walked every day. even in the rain, even in the snow. if i cannot walk the dog, i need to pay a dog walker to do this. $16/walk
- a dog needs to be fed at regular intervals
- a dog may eat my favorite shoes or mess on my brand new couch
- three words: curb your dog
- a dog barks. a dog usually barks when you are not home
- a dog will get sick when you can least afford it
- even a healthy dog is not cheap
- a dog needs to be groomed
- my apartment is small. do i even have room (i do have the backyard though)

My wits back a bit, I talked to a few coworkers who have pets. A couple of them were married or in steady relationships and two were single. The single people both said the same thing: it's hard to own a dog when you live alone. Especially in the city. It really limits your options for going out and partying. Sigh. I probably needed to hear it.

Lastly, I talked to my friend J the resident dog expert. She knew about Shiba Inus and recommended this site to me. Funny stuff, but also a wake-up call. J strongly recommended against me getting a dog. 'You'll want to explore, and this isn't Boulder (Colo.) where you can take your dog everywhere with you. It will stay at home, it will be miserable and it will mess up your nice stuff to let you know how miserable it is. Or it will be locked in a crate all the time. Is that fair? No.'

She was right of course. I think she could tell I was disappointed. In the end, she told me to wait a year. Then I could re-evaluate. In the meantime, I could always volunteer at a pet shelter to fill the void.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The stars align

What a successful weekend! I got three major items on the to-do list accomplished.

On Friday I ran out to Bed Bath & Beyond (my unofficial second home these days) during lunch and bought a nice bamboo shade for my window. When I got home from work I decided to try installing it before leaving for Connecticut. The directions were vague at best - take out shade, install metal brackets, attach shade. Okay, super. Except I realized I needed my drill to install the brackets so it had to wait until I got back from Connecticut.

On Saturday I sold my SUV to a dealer. I'm only breaking even on the deal (they're paying off the rest of my loan) but I'm not complaining. I'll drop it off next weekend. On the way back to CT house (or weekend house as my NYC friends are calling it) I stopped at the IKEA in New Haven to buy two Lack shelves to put under my bed.

Backstory: since I knew I would be short on storage space at the apartment, my plan was to turn my bed into a captain's bed, which basically means putting drawers or shelves underneath. My original object of desire was Pottery Barn's Stratton bed with drawers until I came to my senses about the cost. Then a couple of months ago I was watching "Mission Organization" on HGTV and watched the designer put closet organizer shelves under a bed to make a de facto captain's bed. Brilliant. Except I wanted to use drawers so I could store clothes down there. I wanted to recreate that and found reasonably priced drawer units at Target. But the shipping was going to kill me. So I moved down to the city without the shelves. I saw very similar units at Bed Bath & Beyond but they were $130 each, more than double the Target shelves. I'd pretty much given up hope until I found this blog post. Amazing!

A coworker and I discussed the logistics at work - would I need to build the platform? Only if the Lack shelves wouldn't support the weight of my boxspring, mattress, me and occasional guest sleepers. IKEA is a store I try to avoid as a rule. Like Stew Leonard's the store is set up so you have to walk down every freakin aisle before you can check out. Sometimes I just want to get in, find out what bin the furniture is in, get it, and get out. Had I been smarter I just would have gone to the self-serve furniture area, done a search and been on my way.

As it was I hard such a hard time remembering Aisle 5, Bin 26 that by the time I made it to the warehouse I had to look it up anyway. Then I had to go get a palette cart. I made it through checkout and didn't even bother with the loading area. I pushed the cart out to my SUV, loaded the shelves up and headed home.

Back at weekend house, I was telling my roommate about how I really wanted furniture similar to what we had on our front porch for my NYC backyard. In a kind gesture he said I could just take the furniture. It belonged to a roommate who had long since moved out and our deck had plenty of extra stuff to move there. Score!

The party on Saturday night was great - lots of Beer Pong, asshole and drinking. Also, lots of people crashing at our house. With my mattress down in the city, I was forced to sleep on the extra boxspring I'd left behind. Uncomfortable at best.

Sunday was nuts - I loaded the porch furniture into my car, and drove down to my city apartment. I was lucky enough to find parking right on my street, not too far from my building. Then I unloaded the furniture, plus my shelves and some other stuff I'd left behind. Then I loaded some crap from my apartment into my SUV, drove back to Connecticut and then finally took the train back into the city.

I was exhausted and all I wanted was a night in my bed. But that meant setting up my bed, which meant setting up my shelves, which meant clearing a space for my bed, which meant finishing hanging my bamboo shade and moving a bunch of boxes. After 15 minutes of high comedy, I managed to hang my shade. It was heavy and I was afraid the brackets would get pulled right out of the wall at first. But everything held and the shade works great.

I moved the boxes to the other side of my living room and started assembling the shelves. The directions were amusing - no words, just pictures. I had both shelving units assembled in a jiffy. There was one screw missing (my bad luck with pre-fabbed furniture continues I guess) but it didn't affect the integrity of the unit. I sat on each to check and they most definitely held my weight. A friend and I set them up on the floor, dropped my boxspring and mattress down on top and - ta-da! - I had my bed back! I was incredibly excited. Plus, the shelves left plenty of room for storage. So while I couldn't store my clothes there without buying baskets, I could store all my books and anything else missing a home.

The shelves also came with brackets to wall-mount them, which gave me a great idea. I want to buy three more and make a full entertainment center. Two shelves on the side and one along the top. It will be awesome, and it will be a nice stopgap until I can afford something nicer. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sunday night I slept in my bed. I can't tell you how great that was. Now if only I had more time to catch up on my sleep. Still no gas, still no trash key. I don't quite feel at home yet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

ConEd woes

It's Friday and I still have no gas. Yesterday during lunch I once again ran uptown to my apartment, this time to let the Super in. She thought ConEd was coming to turn on the gas but it turns out they had come only to inspect the line. The ConEd guy was not happy that my microwave is sitting directly on top of my stove burners. I don't like it either, Mr. ConEd man. Seriously, why do these people keep Con in their name? It's just asking for hell.

So no gas yet. Super called ConEd today and found out the plumber needs to give ConEd an affidavit - an affidavit? "I, the plumber, do solemly swear that the gas line is ok?" Otherwise ConEd will sic Jack McCoy on their ass.

I also took the opportunity to play 10 dumb questions with my Super. I mean, if she thinks I'm dumb may as well ask the dumb questions. So I asked where my trash key was (she had to get a copy made - hello, no preparation. Honestly, wtf?); where my signed copy of the lease was and where I needed to send my rent checks too. Not that I'm eager to pay rent. I also confirmed that the leasing agent was correct in telling me that since I lived in the apartment for only a half-month in August but paid a whole first month's rent before moving in, I only owed a half-month's rent for September. The Super confirmed. Good. Backing up, yes I need a trash key. The trash lives in a metal enclosure outside of my building. And we recycle, which makes me happy.

My sister gave me a nice surprise - she signed me up for a gift subscription to Netflix since I have no TV. I picked my first 6 movies and watched the first, "Mission Impossible 3," earlier this week. It was pretty good. The first one is still my favorite. My parents hate that Jim Phelps turned bad in that one.

I'm headed up to Connecticut this week for a belated going away party. I'm also taking Hunk (my SUV) to another dealer to try to sell him. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stuck inside

I have an awesome backyard that I haven't been able to enjoy yet. Why? Because I'm still inside, stuck unpacking. As predicted I brought way too much stuff to my wonderful starter apartment. I mentioned this to my best friend, who mentioned in turn that she was considering getting a storage space and did I want to share to split the cost? Hells yes! I love how things have a way of working out.

Other things are not working out as well - my car for instance. It's been for sale for nearly a month with only two nibbles. The day before I moved, I took Hunk to a dealership in the hopes of selling it back. But they wouldn't buy because I financed the SUV and I'm still paying it off. Bummer. They gave me some recommendations - list on (done, as well as, post on Craigslist (like they even had to suggest that to me) and consider dropping my price. With a sigh, I went home and did just that, cutting the price by $1000. I know these things take time but the thought of making a car payment in addition to my rent is daunting. As each day goes by I'm more stressed about this. I hope the car sells soon.

Work has been tough because of the car stress and also unpacking stress. I make a task list at work of the things I want to finish at night. More time is great but I've spending a lot of that extra time on the phone catching up with friends. My own fault. I finally cut the shelf down enough to get it installed in my closet. Next on the assembly line was the space saver.

A space saver is a cabinet or shelf that goes over your toilet. I say this because my boyfriend has no idea what the hell I was talking about when I told him about it. Assembly time. I opened the box and took out all the parts. I'd learned my lesson in college with assembly furniture - read the directions. By step 3 I was already screwed. Two support pieces were missing. I was mad for about 10 minutes, figuring I was stuck. Further consideration showed I could still put the rest together and evaluate post-assembly.

A half hour later the space saver was assembled. The doors do not quite line up at the top, but I can fix that with my drill. What should I expect for $45? The missing support pieces would have added stability but the piece came together without them. I called the 800-number on the instruction manual and ordered the missing pieces (they were free as they should be). Then I put the space saver in my bathroom. It was tight and I had to take off the bottom support bar to maneuver it around the water shutoff. Once in, it was wobbly from the missing pieces but looked great!

I'm probably a bit too excited. Like my shower curtain? It's actually a light blue. And the rod I had to buy for it? Fell on my head three times while I tried to expand it to the right size. All worth it though. Next to buy: a bamboo shade for my window so I can have some privacy, and shelves for under my bed so I can finally set it up. I've unpacked about 10 boxes and set aside 5 to store when my friend and I get a storage unit. My apartment is a bit of a mess. But a good mess.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


My space saver came really fast - arrived today. I had it shipped to work brilliantly. It wasn't heavy but it was bulky meaning another taxi ride was in my future. There was a Home Depot in walking distance of work, so I ran there post-worktime for the additional closet shelf I wanted. Yes, they do have Home Depots in NYC (and kudos to that).

I looked around for the lumber section but didn't find it. Instead, I stumbled across a pre-fabbed shelving section! Perfect, since all of my closet hardware was painted white. I found a piece long enough - a bit too long actually. I found a clerk and asked them to cut it down only to find out that they can't cut it down in New York City. What?!? Methinks I got lied to. But I decided to be resourceful. I went to the saws section and picked out the only one under $200 - a $35 jigsaw. With the shelf I spent just over $50. Not too bad. I forgot my change of address coupon but I knew I'd be back for a shelf to add to my kitchen - a brilliant plan I'll expand on in a future post.

I grabbed a taxi, a Ford Escape hybrid SUV. My driver was hysterical. He had a son just starting high school. He was worried because his son wanted to get a job. How funny! The driver asked me funny questions about my first job and I found out his son goes to Brooklyn Tech, which is where my Dad went. A neat coincidence. We talked about the pressure to get into a good college. When we got to my building, he helped me unload my stuff. I tipped him well.

Inside, I set up two boxes as my sawhorse and read the operating instructions for the saw. Okay, I read the box. Okay, I looked at the pictures on the box. I put on my hiking boots to protect my feet and carefully inserted the saw blade. I turned it on briefly to test it and then measured twice on the shelf. I marked the proper length and prepared to cut.

Man, the saw was hard to control. There was a lot of vibration and I had a hard time keeping the saw on the line. Sawdust flew everywhere. When the cut was done, I reviewed my work and laughed. I'd gone horribly off-course on the second half of the shelf. I fixed my cut. The cut side had jagged edges from the saw, but I didn't care. Time to put the shelf in.

There was already support wood in the closet for the shelf. It was hard to maneuver the shelf in. I had to finagle it in diagonally and then flip it so it laid horizontally as it should. I did this only to find out the shelf was too long. Oy. I pulled the shelf back out, measured again and cut the board down by an inch. I finagled it back into the closet. Still too long. Rinse, repeat. Still too long. By this time it was 9:30 and too late to politely try again. I'll go to bed without the shelf installed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pieces fit

Gentle Giant sent a rep to my apartment today to fix my TV stand. Good thing because I was running out of patience and ready to fix the damn thing myself. I was a bit afraid the rep would look at it, say "Sorry, we can't fix this" and then offer to cover the replacement cost. The piece is just so New York I couldn't stand the thought of losing it.

I needn't have worried. The rep came in, glued the leg back into place, used one nail and the stand was fixed. I helped him turn it right-side up and we positioned it in the correct spot. The whole thing took less than 15 minutes. He told me to wait 8 hours before trying to move it. No problem!

I went back to work, where my giddyness carried me through the day. I've been really tired during the day and drinking a lot of Starbucks. Really bad-for-me Starbucks too - a tall iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte with whipped. May as well be called dinner. But the drink works; I'm wired for a good 4 hours afterwards. I'm kind of bummed because while the Starbucks in Fairfield (CT) gets the drink right, none of the NYC ones I've been to know to drop the cinnamon on top of the whipped. It's just in the drink. Kinda flavor overkill. I'm not going to say anything though. The baristas are busy enough.

I haven't been sleeping well. It's partially because of the damn drippy air conditioner above me but also because of an unexpected cause - it's too quiet! My apartment is in the back of the building and faces a shared courtyard. There is no street noise at night. Even sirens are only distant muffled wails. There is no New York City noise, and it's very weird. My circadian rhythm is a bit off too - my body still tries to wake me up at 6:15 AM, no matter how many times I tell it it's OK to sleep until 7:30 or 8 now. I'm sure the sofa bed isn't helping. I dream about sleeping in my bed. How lame is that?

Little things

On Monday morning I woke up smelly and tired. I went into my bathroom to hang up my shower curtain and take a shower - only there was no curtain rod. What the eff? I can't believe I hadn't noticed that earlier. I had to shower very carefully, and I put down a towel to make sure the floor didn't soak.

At work I celebrated the move with my coworkers and answered the same questions over and over happily. I am truly excited to be here. My commute was great - 15 minutes on the 6 train and 5 minutes of walking. Versus 1 hour 15 minutes on Metro North and 10 minutes on the 6 and 10 minutes walking, this wins every time.

In my kitchen unpacking Sunday, I'd discovered that I had no drawers. Only cabinets. When I'd seen the apartment the kitchen was empty and somehow the thought of no drawers had never occurred to me. Also no counters had never occurred to me, but I didn't have those either. But I digress. I'd have to buy a couple of drawers to put under the sink with a utensil holder.

During lunch I scrambled back to my apartment (subways run less frequently during off-peak hours) to meet the locksmith by 12:30. He had some serious trouble adding the deadbolt to the backyard door. It should have taken 15 minutes max. Before I knew it, it was 1, then 1:30. Finally, I told him that even if he wasn't done I had to leave. I felt horrible because he was all sweaty and obviously working hard, but I'd already taken enough leaves of hours from work. He dragged it out 15 more minutes and finally got the damn thing. Again, my work was super understanding.

After work it was back to Bed Bath & Beyond for a shower curtain and a bath mat. In the bath section I checked out the space savers. My bathroom is tiny but workable. No room for a shelf unit though, so a space saver would be great. But the ones they had were kind of expensive and none of them really matched my vanity. Then I went to the Container Store and marveled at the cool shit they had. I bought two sets of drawers for under-cabinet organization and a cool kitchen sponge-brush thing. Even on sale, everything was expensive. I know this will be a trend in New York City. I'm bitching about it nonetheless.

My bag was huge, plus my earlier swag, so I caught a cab home. Another $14 gone, and I tipped ridiculously high. I checked online, where I found a nice space saver on sale on Linens N Things' site for $45. I ordered it right away.

I unpacked some more on Monday night and was disappointed that the movers didn't call to schedule fixing my TV stand. It was kind of holding me up and I am impatient. I slept on my sofa bed again. My guess is it will be at least a week before I have enough room to set up my mattress.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ambient noise

On Sunday morning, I woke up at sometime in the very early morning to a loud, repeated noise of something hitting metal. With no clock plugged in, I had no idea what time it was. Was someone doing construction nearby? I was very confused. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep to no avail. Finally I had to get up to see what it was. I checked my cell - 3:30 AM. Oy.

I followed my ears (not very easy for someone partially deaf from rock concerts) to the kitchen, and then back to my window. One look outside told me everything - water was dripping onto the top of my air conditioner. And it was very loud. I went outside and looked up. Sure enough, the neighbor on the second floor had an air conditioner directly over mine. And it was leaking. Onto my air conditioner. BANG BANG a 2-year-old hitting a pan over and over. Welcome to New York, I guess.

I was too exhausted to do anything about it. I went back inside, covered my head with a pillow and toughed it out.

I was able to sleep until about 9:30 AM and I needed every second of it. That's when the calls started rolling in - friends checking up on me, family, etc. I was starving so I dug through my boxes until I found my food. Bagel, yum.

Then it was on to unpacking. A truly daunting task. I started by checking my manifest. I wanted to unpack my clothing first since it and my hangers accounted for 6 boxes alone. Unfortunately, all of those boxes seemed to be on the bottom. After a bit of shuffling I found my hangers and soon after started hanging up my clothes. I ended up with a lot of extra hangers but my closet rod was full. Guess I won't be buying any new clothes for awhile.

The closet wasn't super wide but it was very tall inside. Since I am pretty tall my first thought was to yank out the shelf, raise the bar and add a second bar. But I decided against it when I tested the shelf - glued and nailed. Instead, I decided to buy a second shelf and install it myself. Then I could use the floor for shoe storage. Damn I have a lot of shoes. And much like my jeans, I think I wear the same three pairs over and over.

I broke for lunch and stared longingly at my poor, broken TV stand, which was still wrapped in the moving blanket and laying upside-down to protect the broken leg from further damage. As I'd started opening boxes I realized how much crap was dependent on that stand - all of my DVDs, all of my video games and the system, my TV, my DVD player, etc. My TV was sitting on my dresser looking distraught, and my stereo was still packed since the TV was in its space.

With no other form of entertainment, I pulled out my laptop. Time to test the Internet. As my HP started, I prayed to the Internet Gods that someone around was running an unsecured router. As luck would have it, there was not one but three people doing just that. I could live without TV but life without Internet was too much to ask. None of the networks had super reception - all were one bar - and I couldn't even connect to the first two. The third let me connect and I was surfing the web slowly. But at least I was on.

I ran out to D'Agostino and grabbed the basic groceries - milk, butter, cereal, etc. With no gas I had to remember to buy microwavable dinners. I also signed up for their rewards card, which I noticed only gave you discounts after you earn a certain number of points. Lame. I miss Stop & Shop already. I went back home, unpacked everything and headed down to Bed Bath & Beyond.

I cannot even describe how bad of an idea that was. Let me be clear - love Bed Bath & Beyond. I was happy to see that the store carried discounted toiletries like my store in Connecticut. But it was back to school weekend and every college freshman and their parents was there as well. Not to mention that the store completely overwhelmed me. I mean, they had a whole wall of spatulas. There were too many New York City options. I went for a trashcan. I wanted a stainless steel one to match my kitchen. The cheapest one was $90. I walked out without the trashcan, but with $90 worth of crap. They do take coupons though - their coupons, Linens N Things coupons, expired coupons...that pretty much rocks. The subway ride was unpleasant at best with two huge bags. I'm happy I live only 2 blocks from the station.

A friend came over for dinner, so I put the unpacking on pause. We went to the Atlantic Grill and had awesome meals with complimentary brownies for dessert on a dreary rainy day. I learned later that it's a bit of a celeb eatery but we didn't see anyone while we were there.

After dinner we went down to the Whole Foods in Union Square. I had been in there plenty of times - my work used to be located at Park and 17th. But it was my first time downstairs. With two sets of arms I stocked up on goodies.

I can't believe I have to go to work tomorrow. I need a week off to unpack.

Opened up my eyes

I feel like I just went through a moving blitzkrieg - and survived.

Moving Day completely snuck up on me. Being the classic procrastinator I went out on Wednesday and Thursday nights (the stress of not hearing from my Super didn't help) so by the time Friday night rolled around I was frantically packing as much as I could. My roommates didn't help but that was OK because I wanted to know where everything was. I packed and numbered each box and kept a manifest on my notepad, though by Friday night the once-detailed descriptions read things like "crap" "more crap" and "random crap."

I packed my laptop last of course. Come Saturday morning I enjoyed my last hours of Internet surfing and I was going to miss secured Internet. And cable TV. And a home phone. (I despise cell phones. I do own one though.) But in NYC I wouldn't need those at first. And I would not be able to afford them comfortably.

The movers arrived promptly at 8:30 AM. It was a crew of 2. They thanked me for my directions to get around the low railroad bridge. We did a tour of the house - that stays, that goes, etc. and they proceeded to load everything up in 2 hours. It was like my friends had told me. They took two boxes at a time, lifting 80 lbs or so. They ran up and down the stairs. They wrapped my furniture like madmen. I had no idea what to do during the process. I'd prepared too well - there was nothing for me to run around and do.

When the moving company first prepared the estimate, I remember laughing when the sales guy told me 15 boxes. I thought that would be way too many. I ended up with 20 boxes plus a few random items and my furniture. Luckily they brought a medium sized truck so everything fit with room to spare.

I found out later they're not supposed to do this, but the crew also gave me a ride to the apartment. Otherwise I would've had to drive and find parking and that would have been a nightmare. As it was, the movers couldn't park the truck on my street. There were cars parked literally bumper to bumper, even in front of the hydrant. Since I live on a 1-way side street, the truck would have blocked the whole road and they didn't want to risk a ticket. They ended up parking on the ave and running the stuff down 76th. I felt terrible but the two of them were very cool about it. I offered to help and they just laughed. I ended up supervising from my apartment. I offered to buy them lunch and they politely declined.

Since I live on the first floor they didn't have stairs to deal with, but there was a tight corner. They excelled at getting my stuff in without damaging it. It took awhile to figure out how to get the arms off my couch, and we all had a good laugh when they put the arms back on, then tried to put the couch on its back only to have the arms slide right back off. I fretted about my stuff getting stolen off the truck but everything got into my apartment safely.

Well, almost everything. The crew chief ran in about halfway through to let me know that my TV stand had broken while they were taking it off the truck. I came out to have a look. Nothing terrible; one of the legs had broken off. The piece looked real but was made out of particle board.

"Aha!" said the mover. Particle board isn't as strong as regular wood so it can break during moves. "Oh," said I. I know particle board isn't as strong as regular wood. I think that's pretty much a duh. I was still bummed. He gave me two options. They could take the piece back, fix it and deliver it. Or they could send someone out. I chose the latter.

The rest of the move happened without incident. Despite the TV stand incident the move was done in about 2 hours and they did a great job. I was satisfied and gave them each an $80 tip. When they left, I looked at the stacks of boxes in my apartment. I was buried in boxes again. But all I wanted to do was sleep even though it was only 2 PM.

Unfortunately that didn't happen, because no sooner had I plopped down on my couch than my buzzer went off. I thought it was the movers so I just buzzed the door. I looked out of my apartment door but it was an older man. I don't know why, but my first thought was that it might be some guy who would buzz me a lot because he didn't want to bring his keys. Turns out it was the locksmith.

On the way down, my Super called to let me know that I needed to call the locksmith to schedule a time for the locks to be changed. Sigh. It had fallen on me to schedule. But he had come on his own. He was very nice, but very slow. All I wanted to do was sleep, but after 2 hours of working on my door he left to go get a different lock. He came back in 30 minutes and spent another two hours changing it out. Oy. It was 6:30 by the time he was done and I was about to collapse. He told me he needed to come back on Monday to do the backdoor. Fine, whatever, please let me sleep.

The only food I had was some leftover pizza I'd brought with me from Connecticut. That was my dinner. The movers had strategically placed my boxes so I could open up my sofa bed (my boxspring and mattress were up against the wall so I could have more room to unpack). I pulled the sofabed out, threw on a sheet and found my pillow. I turned on my laptop, put in "The Bourne Identity" and fell asleep at 8:30 PM. I dreamed away most of my first night in NYC.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I am way too forgiving

Come Tuesday (Aug. 14), I still hadn't heard from my Super Unbelievable - I was moving in four days but no contact, no keys, no nothing.

I ignored the problem for two days but by Thursday it still hadn't magically solved itself. I called my broker in a tizzy. She was as shocked as I was. I told her I needed to have the keys that afternoon since I wanted to start moving stuff the next day. She said she would make sure the landlord called me.

Four stressful hours later, she called me back, said hold on, and put the Super on. The following paraphrased convo took place.

Super - I'm sorry I haven't called. Here's why - the apartment's not ready. And I didn't want to disappoint you. So I haven't called.
Me (internally) - Fucking hell.
Me (speaking now) - So what's left to do?
Super - Well ConEd hasn't turned on the gas line yet. So you can't use the range.
Me (internally) - Oh, well that's not the hugest deal.
Me (speaking now) - Oh, well that's not the hugest deal. The bathroom is done?
Super - Yes.
Me - And the kitchen is done, besides the gas?
Super - Yes. But the fridge opens the wrong way and your microwave isn't up yet. Also your air conditioner enclosure is not right...(lists other items)
Me - That sounds like a lot. Maybe it's best if I wait until September 1 to move in.
Super - No, no. The place is livable. You should still move in this weekend.
Me - Um, ok.

The broker came back on and told me to come pick up the keys. I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed. I was used to Connecticut and Colorado apartment moves where everything is, you know, ready when you move in. But my friends later assured me that this kind of stuff is normal for an NYC move and in fact I got off pretty easy. Wow. As one friend put it - 'the lease is signed, you've all got your paperwork, and the broker has gone above and beyond what NYC brokers usually do. You're pretty lucky.'

So I went to the apartment and got my keys, which helped to ease my mind some. The bathroom was in fact done (no shower curtain rod though, annoying). I had gone out and bought a window air conditioner but one was already installed and would stay. $200 back in my pocket, nice. The Super laughed when I asked if it stayed. 'Maybe things are different in Connecticut' she said, which bothered me to no end even if it was true. She also said the locks would be changed but after I moved in.

In the kitchen, the microwave was sitting on a piece of plywood on top of my stove. Here was the deal: they installed a new gasline during renovations, and ConEd hadn't approved it yet. Also, the microwave the Super bought was the wrong hight for the cabinet, so they needed to buy a new shorter cabinet. Since I wasn't planning on cooking much I could live with it. At least I had the microwave. Also, she showed me how the fridge door opened the wrong way - towards the back door instead of towards the kitchen doorway. She had two fridges sitting out in the living area that didn't fit, as well as another microwave. We agreed that I would hold off on moving stuff in until Saturday so she could get the place cleaned.

Not perfect, but I didn't want to wait to move in. Yes, that's my tiny but wonderful kitchen above. And that door goes to my backyard. In fact, every time some stress came up I just kept saying 'backyard' to myself over and over. It seemed to work.

Even with all that, the place looked great. I could not wait to move in. I was willing to forgive the Super as long as she is super attentive to me now (ha, I made a funny). I'm sure that will come back to bite me in the ass. But right now all I can think about is being a New Yorker.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nothing can prepare you

I took a mental break from moving to grab drinks with the girls only to find out that all they wanted to talk about was the move. The most common question I've gotten over the past couple of weeks is 'What will you do with all that spare time?'. Fair question. I'll gain about 2 hours of not having to commute anymore.

My answer: explore. I grew up in the tri-state area and have stayed in the city for extended periods of time before, but it's not the same as living here. I still enjoy doing the touristy things like staring up at the sky to see the tips of skyscrapers (though unlike tourists I do this from the side, not in the middle of the sidewalk). I don't mind paying to take the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty, dropping $17 to go to the Top of the Rock or the top of the Empire State Building, or unseemly amounts to ride in a taxi. It's all part of the experience.

Once I move down here it will be a kick to get to know the neighborhoods. Right now I know Gramercy very well since I work nearby and chill there a lot. I'm looking forward to learning about Lenox Hill - a neighborhood few seem to have heard of - and the UES in general.

When I was narrowing down my neighborhoods/blocks to search in, I considered the following:
- proximity to a subway line, preferably a line by work
- or a place within walking distance of work
- are there groceries nearby?
- is there shopping nearby?
- is there a park nearby?
- what kind of culture (museums, etc.) are nearby?
- are my friends close by?
- is the neighborhood safe? (in NYC these days, pretty much all of Manhattan is very safe)
- am I comfortable walking alone at night?
- will I like it there?

Since I couldn't possibly walk all of Manhattan's neighborhoods in their entirety, I supplemented my search online. I found some help from the usual suspects as well as a few hidden nuggets.

- Halstead Properties neighborhood map: their properties were way out of my range, but their site was very helpful. Each neighborhood gets a summary graph and they've broken out groceries, banks, etc. nearby. Take it with a grain of salt though - the Wachovia at 73rd in proximity of Gramercy? Not so much.

- New York Magazine's neighborhood map: This page takes awhile to load but it's worth it. Each neighborhood has an outlook, places to hit, and apartment data. The data is sometimes outdated (studios for $1000 in 2003 - depressing). I highly recommend this whole site as an excellent resource to find restaurants, shopping, etc. with a bit of snark for visitors or perspective residents.

- New York Times real estate section: The 'Living In' stories are nice informational anecdotes about many NYC areas. Look up a specific neighborhood and you can read topical stories (subscription sometimes required). The rent classifieds are also less likely to be populated by scams, though the downside is there are far fewer ads here than on Craigslist.

Those three proved valuable for me, and are great for people who've never been to the city but want to live here. Nothing beats walking around if you can swing it. With the apartment market the way it is it's impossible to see what the place is like morning, noon and night, but if you know the area you want to live in you can hit it at different times.

I have a friend who lives in Chelsea - high 20's between 7th and 8th Ave. During the day it's pretty quiet. There are shoppers who walk by her building but the residents are all pretty much at work. At night, totally different story. Loud until all hours. She wishes she knew that beforehand and will move when her lease is up. You never know what you're going to get unless you do a lot of walkbys.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tired of packing

You'd think I'd be a packing expert by now. This will be my fourth move since college and I've only been out 3 years. I should have this down to an efficient science that takes 8 or less hours.

But no. I spent a good portion of the weekend packing and I'm not done. I thought I had gotten rid of a ton of crap but I still have an awful lot. My moving estimate calls for 1855 lbs. of stuff. At first I thought that was a gross overestimate. Now I wonder if it's high enough.

So far, I've packed 6 boxes all the way and 3 partial boxes. My moving estimate calls for 15 total boxes, which I'm going to go over. I'm not even halfway packed. Since I don't want the movers to have to deal with loose crap, I'm packing everything. So that means my hangers took up 1.5 boxes, my shoes took up 2 boxes (and counting), my files took up .75 of a box, and my extra blankets took up .75 a box. Don't even ask about my clothing - could you imagine if I had kept everything?

I spent all day Saturday trying to organize my items by type - fragile, office, clothing, books, etc. and then starting to pack. I also made a run up to my parents' to drop of the stuff I don't want to get rid of but don't have room for. On Sunday I drove over an hour to Plato's Closet to sell some of my clothing. They took 13 items and I only made $50, but it was worth it. Plus, I-95 was backed up for 10 miles on the way home so my SUV and I got to work the back roads from New Haven and spend some quality time together. I'm gonna miss driving.

My kitchen stuff is in its original boxes and it will stay there. I have some loose kitchen stuff to pack. So that's another 4-5 boxes. Clothing is packed except for what I'm wearing this week and the stuff in my dresser, which I don't have to pack. Computer accessories have to be packed, office stuff has to be packed, electronics have to be packed, and random looseness. I think I'm looking at another 6-7 boxes for that stuff. So altogether, maybe another 12 boxes. Not too bad. The moving company told me they overestimated the weight some. I hope so.

All this moving has also made me unmotivated. I could have the movers pack for me, but I can't afford that. I just want to be at my new apartment with everything magically moved in. I'm working on making that happen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Goodbye, sweet desk

I'm obsessed with my move now - I think about it at work; I talk about it with my friends after work; I ask my boyfriend to help me pack for it; I dream about it. And when I'm not thinking about the move itself I'm thinking about the things I'm not moving. Like my car and all the furniture I own that won't fit.

It gives me a good chuckle that since college I've actually downsized. In college of course I lived in the dorms, followed by a house and a condo, all with roommates. After college, I moved back in with my parents but that only lasted two months. Then I moved to a big one-bedroom, railroad style apartment that I miss every day. At that time I was working a full-time day job and a part-time night job to pay off bills. When I consolidated to one job, I moved to a smaller attic apartment. Finally a year ago I moved into a house but with roommates. Now I'm basically moving back into a dorm room, size-wise.

As a result, I have to rethink my living style. Much like the buildings in NYC hold people vertically, I'll be storing my stuff vertically. Goodbye storage benches; hello tall bookshelves! Suddenly things I used to take for granted are now weighed by importance - do I really need all that chick lit with me in NYC? Will my guests really need towels? Are pots and pans that important?

I've surprised myself a bit. Being a clotheshorse I thought I would have a hard time getting rid of half of my wardrobe, but inspiration from Clean Sweep helped convince me to cull. I'm also considering buying a storage organization system and seeing if the landlord will give me a break in rent if I agree to leave it behind. But my furniture has been tougher to sort through. Some things, such as my short bookshelves, are no-brainers to sell. But other pieces, like my desk, are tougher. Since college I've been investing in nicer pieces and it breaks my heart a bit to part with some of the beautiful stuff. My boyfriend laughed at me until I asked him how he'd feel about parting with his stereo equipment. In the end, I sold my couch and chair and used that money to purchase a sleeper sofa as well as my desk and matching bookshelf and dresser on Craigslist. Also going are two shorter bookshelves, a storage bench, a CD rack, and my bedframe. I hope to have a tag sale to sell other random items if time and dedication allows.

And then there's the toughest sell of all - my car. God, I love my SUV. It moved me back to the East Coast from Colorado. It's been my savior in the winter and my dependable workhorse. It represents freedom to escape from my house, my state, etc. I know I don't need a car in NYC, and I probably wouldn't want one. But I'm really going to miss it. Not to mention that I'm still paying it off. I have ads up on and and CL of course; and flyers in groceries and coffee shops around town. I do worry about it not selling though. If I run out of options I can try to sell to a car dealership, but I'd make less money and I don't want to end up upside down on my loan. I need the money.

I need it because even though I am selling a lot, I will need to buy things as well. Like underbed storage, tall bookshelves and an armoire-like structure to supplement the one small closet. If space allows, I also want to buy some bathroom storage - a cabinet and a space saver maybe. Also, a small garden shed to use as storage in the backyard. Finding space, anywhere I can.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Supplies in demand

I got mail this weekend from Gentle Giant - a nice FAQ booklet with moving preparation tips. These guys rock. My favorite line was something like 'you can color code boxes so the movers know which room to put them in.' Aha. Well guys, you can put that in, umm, the only room.

The packing tips section was especially interesting to me...oh yeah, I might need boxes at some point. And tape. And bubble wrap. And a Sharpie to label everything with. I read somewhere that movers appreciate boxes of about equal size when possible for easier stacking in the truck. I've done so much research that everything is starting to blur together. My moving estimate included boxes, but when I emailed my rep to talk about it I discovered those boxes were for day-of packing if needed. Not helpful now. I'd have to find boxes somewhere else.

A Google search for 'moving boxes' turned up some wholesalers and a U-Haul link. Ah, U-Haul. I've had one decent and one horrible experience with them. Their box prices looked cheap though, so I decided to give it a shot.

U-Haul leases its name to local franchises, so I hit up the franchise in my town first. When I arrived, I saw that they had several packages to choose from. I started by asking the guy behind the counter for a moving box package recommendation which was a mistake. He had to ask his coworker, who asked the manager. The service was slow. Finally I made the decision for them only to find out they were out of one of the box sizes. They offered to substitute a bigger, more expensive box. I left empty-handed.

Next stop: UPS store. There are three in my town but one has been particularly helpful with my eBay mailings so I hit that branch. They also had multiple moving box packages which were wisely named things like 'studio,' '1BR apartment' and so on. But the packages were not cheap - about $45 for the studio package. It included one closet box (hanging storage for clothes), five large boxes, five medium boxes, two kitchen boxes and two linen boxes, plus a roll of tape and a 3-foot roll of bubble wrap. Or maybe that is cheap, I have no frame of reference here. The last two times I moved, I just went to Bed Bath and Beyond and Costco and grabbed from the box piles. Cost: free. I told my UPS guys I'd think about it and left.

I decided to do some begging and box cruising. I hit Costco first, but the pickings were slim. I keep forgetting that it's almost back-to-school time, so college kids and their parents had picked over the piles. Also, the fall is the second most popular moving season behind spring. I had been beaten to the punch.

So my next option was hitting the houseware stores, liquor stores and groceries. You have two options when getting boxes from stores: you can Dumpster dive, or you can politely ask the shipping clerks if they'll set aside boxes for you. I always try the latter first. I went to Linens N Things and Bed Bath and Beyond. Linens N Things asked me to come back at 9 the next good, I have to work. Bed Bath and Beyond had a waiting list for boxes. I signed up, but I was about the 10th name in line. Also not very promising.

A couple of the town liquor stores offered me some smaller boxes, which I took. They would be good for the random stuff. Finally, I stopped by four groceries. Each said basically the same thing - come back at 7 AM during the week or 6:30 AM on the weekends, and the boxes go fast from June - September. I'm not surprised. I made a mental note to come back on Saturday.

My friends gave me two additional recommendations: Craigslist (they really do have everything) and Boomerang Boxes. I checked both out but the idea of spending money on boxes seems so weird to me. I guess I am being pretty cheap about this.

In the end I lucked out. My aunt had just moved and offered to give me her boxes. These boxes rock - heavy duty, with UPS printed on the side. That was perfect because I was worried they would have the movers' name printed on them, which my moving company might not like. Even better, they shut in such a way that no tape is needed. I only need about 10 boxes but my aunt gave me 20. I'm set.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Moving on

Despite the mini-hell of the last few days, I am very excited to finally be moving into New York City. Now that I know I'm moving, it's time to find movers! I asked friends and relatives for their recommendations and picked up some good tips on how to pick a company:

- make sure the movers are registered with the DOT and licensed for interstate moving
- check their Better Business Bureau report
- call and ask for an estimate. If they don't ask for a general manifest before giving you an estimate, run!
- check to see if the estimate is binding or non-binding
- do they charge by hour or weight? Interstate moves should be charged by weight, and you can request to be there when they weigh the truck
- make sure insurance is offered and read the policy carefully. If you pack yourself, you may not be eligible
- this site has a decent breakdown of things to remember

After talking to a few friends, I had a pretty good idea who I wanted to go with - Gentle Giant. Two of my couple friends and one single friend had used them and loved them. One couple bragged about how they ran back and forth to the truck while unpacking. Sounds insane to me. They're also one of the best northeast corridor movers by reputation. My current roommate said they're all athletes and row crew. Rock on.

I picked two other companies to call - Two Men and a Truck and the local VanLines affiliate. They had mixed reviews, but I wanted to get more than one estimate. I was originally thinking of calling Mayflower as well until my friend told me a horror story about the movers showing up a day late, losing her stuff for 5 days and finally delivering it with 25% of her stuff damaged during a move from New Jersey to Iowa. No thanks.

Two Men and a Truck seemed pretty nice by phone and their estimate was decent. Around $1000 to move everything or I could pay by the hour. I vetoed the latter. The man I spoke with gave me some good information about moving to New York City. I said I'd call them back. They tried to pressure me into putting down a non-refundable deposit immediately to hold a slot. That annoyed me.

I left a message for VanLines after getting hung up on the first time during a transfer. Not too promising. They called back the next day and estimated about $1150, and I would have to share a truck since I wasn't moving a lot. The company was mostly for house moves, not tiny studio apartment moves.

I got a person at Gentle Giant, but had to leave a message for their interstate crew. The guy called me back 15 minutes later but the day was over before I could call back. The next morning, I called back and spoke with them. The guy gave me a light sales pitch that basically rehashed what my friends had told me and talked about their dependability. He also warned me that his estimate would come in higher than my other estimates. My friends had warned me about that as well but the consensus was it was worth it.

I have to say that Gentle Giant really sold me by phone. They just seemed nice, even if they are in Red Sox country. I asked about 15 questions, some really silly, and the guy was polite and funny in answering them all. So when I got the estimate of $1400 I was ready to go even though it was the highest. I knew my stuff was going to get there safely. I called back and put in my deposit. Let's hope it goes as smoothly as the sales pitch.

I did some more research for my next steps:
- cut down on my crap
- write a list of all things I am moving (manifest), make a copy for movers
- label all boxes
- pack everything I can into a box to avoid chowder (I guess chowder is what they call things not packed in a box. Okay.)
- get water/food for movers
- tip the movers!

Woot. Two and a half weeks to go.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

If I only had a brain

The aggravation with my broker continued as the week progressed. With the crap she pulled the first time I got my cashier's check, I made sure to confirm everything with her before my sister arrived with the second one - name, amount, etc. But oh boy the adventures were not over.

My sister got to my office around 4 PM and we headed straight to the realty group office. I sat down with the office manager - the same woman who had talked me through the lease signing - because once again my broker could not make it. The first issue of fun was that my sister had to get her signature notarized and the realty group does not employ a notary. Super! The broker had originally promised to take us to a bank to get it notarized so of course with her not there we instead had to do it ourselves.

Where do you get things notarized? The only place I know of is town hall, and there was no way we were making that trip in time. The office manager suggested a bank. Fine, whatever. First we tried Fidelity one block up. At first they said 'only if you have a Fidelity investment account' which luckily both my sister and I do. Then the woman said we had to wait. We waited 10 minutes only to be told that the notary actually couldn't vouch for us because the paperwork wasn't Fidelity-related. Really? Because I don't think the law says that. It would have taken 30 seconds to help us, but it was like pulling teeth or something. Normally I would have argued until the little shits knew who they were dealing with, but we didn't have time.

The woman at Fidelity suggested the Post Office, 7 blocks away, but my sister vetoed that. Instead we tried the Chase bank three blocks away where the notary was nice enough to help us out. Since my sister has a Chase account, she even waved the fee.

Back to the realty group, notarized leases in duplicate in hand. Next step - hand over the second cashier's check and be on our way. Except of course it wasn't that simple. We gave the office manager the check. She started writing out the receipt and asked what it was for. The second half of the security and the broker's fee I told her. Oh no, she said. Oh no?!!? The following exchange between her and I:

- You can't have the broker's fee made out to the landlord.
- Huh?
- The broker's fee needs to be made out to the property group.
- But...this is what the broker told me to do. I had to go get another damn check on Tuesday because she gave me the wrong name, so I double-checked to make sure all the info for this one is right.
- Look, it would be different if I knew the landlord personally, but I don't. You need to get two separate checks. I'm going to kill [broker].
-You've got to be kidding me. My sister just flew in from Colorado. There is no branch of her bank here. What are we supposed to do?
- I'm going to kill [broker]. How long is your sister here until?
- Monday.
- Ok, she needs to go to her bank the second the she gets back, get the two checks and then overnight them to me.
- I'm not going to lose the apartment, am I?
- I don't know.

She was using a figure of speech when she said she was going to kill the broker of course, but at that moment I wanted to die. My sister was freaking out because she wasn't sure if her bank would void the first check (which I knew from my experience that they would) and I was freaking out because this group was as flaky as they come.

The office manager suggested that since my sister was with me, we could try going to my bank and see if they'd let her sign the check over to me, cash it into my account and write a new one. The chances were slim but it was worth a shot. I didn't want to wait until Monday and stress my sister out. Not to mention me.

So we cabbed it from 23rd and 5th to 19th and 7th, giving the cabbie a huge tip. Back to Wachovia, my knights in shining armor from Tuesday. We explained our deal to the banker and then to the manager. Unfortunately, they could not let my sis sign the check over as the office manager had suggested. Sis and I were not surprised. But the bank did help us out in a huge way - my sister wrote a personal check which they cashed immediately to write out the two separate cashier's checks. That's right, Fidelity, a bank helping someone out! Take note. We probably said thank you about a million times. Kyra Sedgwick, eat your heart out. It was 5:30, so I called the office manager to make sure she would still be there. She would for another half hour.

We grabbed another cab and tipped him well too. Back upstairs, where the office manager asked us how we'd managed to do it. Ah, so she knew her plan wouldn't work. We told her about the kindness of strangers, got our receipt, and FINALLY we were done. My sister is a bit concerned about her bank voiding the first cashier's check, but I'm sure she'll be fine. What a freakin' nightmare.

...but wait, there's more! On Friday afternoon, I got a phone call from the broker. I thought it would be to set up a meeting with the landlord or super, but no. Actually my broker's fee check was short. WHAT. THE. HELL??!? 13%, she said. No way, I said, we agreed on 12%. No, 13% she said. I was so incredibly mad, but she caught me right before a client meeting and I could not argue. After all the shit she'd put me through, not to mention her not being around since she showed me the place, she had the audacity to ask for another $230 dollars?

Wait, here's the best part. I sighed and said it would take me awhile to get the extra money, so she said 'well, just give me $200, my present to you.' Oh, wow, really? I plan on fighting this, I know she said 12%. Unfrickinbelievable. I HATE BROKERS.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Check the tape

With the lease signed (by me at least), the next item on my list was finding out just how big the place is so I can figure out what fits, what has to be sold, and to start calling moving services.

I set up a 9:30 AM viewing time with the broker. I figured that since she lived in the area it wouldn't be a big deal. I'd originally said 9 but my train is never on time, so of course my train got in early that day and I made up to the apartment by 9 easily. I'd already eaten breakfast and I was feeling kind of antsy, so I called her to see if she could come meet me early but she did not pick up.

I used the extra time to watch the cuties walking by, and liked the area more by the minute. But I had to get to work. By 9:45 I was freaking out because I was already pushing it to make it to by 10. I waited a couple more minutes, and then left. I called the broker to apologize and asked her to call me to reschedule. What a pain in the butt.

While I was on the subway the broker left me a message. I listened at work. She was mad that I wasn't there when she made it - 25 minutes late. Whatever. She obviously hadn't listened to my messages. I called her back and apologized again even though it wasn't my fault, because I didn't want our relationship going sour at this crucial juncture. How annoying though. Later on she called me back and was apologetic too, begging off on account of a bad morning. I hope that's the end of the melodrama.

After work we met up at the apartment, which was just as nice as I remembered it, and unfortunately just as small. It turned out the place was 200 SQ feet - so just a bit bigger than the Tudor City place, but it seemed so much bigger with a separate kitchen and of course the outside space added another 100 or so SQ feet. The bathroom was going to be a challenge. I knew it was tiny but seeing it again made me realize just how tiny. I'd hoped to buy a space saver and a storage shelf set but there was probably not going to be room. And it was fully tiled so I wasn't going to be able to install a towel rack without permission from the landlord and help from the super. But it was NEW and it was wonderful. Happy sigh.

I had my camera with me but forgot to take pictures. I also forgot the measure the window for a dowel. Oh well. When I got home, I made a scaled model of my apartment in Photoshop and started placing my furniture. I don't want the place to be cluttered but it looks like I'll be able to fit a bunch - I'll have to sell my desk; all of my bookcases so I can buy taller ones; my bedframe and one of my guitars - without closing the space too much.

My rent is how much?

Monday night had some annoyances - I called the broker to ask a few questions but her cell phone dropped me and she never called back. I called a couple of times but didn't leave a message. Oy, brokers. I mean, these weren't little questions, these were the things my giddyness had blinded me to:

- Does the apartment have an air conditioner?
- Does the building have laundry?
- When is my rent due (15th or 1st)?
- Will the kitchen remodel include a dishwasher?
- What, if any, utilities are included with the rent?
- Is there storage in the basement?

Granted, I really should have asked these questions when I first saw the place. That was pretty dumb of me. But I wanted answers before I signed the lease. With the questions spinning in my head, I spent Tuesday morning's train ride to work waffling a bit more, but by the time I rolled into Grand Central my mind was made up. If I tried to find another apartment, I would compare everything to this one. I looked at my list to help my point:

- newer kitchen with tall fridge
- bathroom with tub, no industrial toilets (meaning no toilets with metal flushers instead of tanks - why the hell do people put those in apartments anyway??!?)
- at least one closet
- elevator if above 2nd floor
- laundry

- 1BR
- doorman
- nice view
- high floor
- dishwasher
- location

So I was only compromising on one need - laundry, which wasn't a huge deal because laundry in the basement is pretty much like going to a laundromat anyway. And I didn't have a great view, but I have a private backyard. And the dishwasher is a question mark - more on that below. And space, well there is none. But overall the place is great, the building is great, and I would be happy.

I went to Wachovia to get the cashier's check. My sister was headed to town on Thursday with the other cashier's check and to co-sign the lease. I was paying one month of security, and my sister was lending me the other half plus the broker's fee...I owe her big time. Then to work. At last, knowing I had a place meant I could really throw myself back into work which was nice. They have been so great about letting me leave throughout the day, I owe them big time as well. Even though they haven't asked me to make up any of the time, I will.

Just before lunch the broker called - the name she gave me for the cashier's check was wrong. You have to be kidding, I said. I already got the damn thing. I know, she replied, but you need to get it fixed. Argh. At least she answered most my questions - no A/C, no laundry but there a laundromat on the block, heat/hot water included in rent (standard and a big relief) and for the dishwasher, she had to ask the landlord if she was buying one for the kitchen. Which probably means no. I'm sure she never asked about dropping the rent either. Even so, I went back to the bank on my lunch break and luckily they recut the check for me, though one of the clerks called it suspicious. I agree - what the hell. But I digress.

At 4, our appointed time, I went to the realty group to sign the lease. I found out my broker would not make it down. I was not surprised. But to her credit, she convinced the landlord to take two cashier's checks - mine on Tuesday with first month's rent, and my sister's later in the week with the rest of the security and the broker's fee. So even though I didn't know whether the place had a dishwasher, I signed the lease. And I knew it was right, because right after I signed, I felt great. My broker did end up making it back, so we chatted a bit and she told me she'd see what she could do about the dishwasher again. I hope it works out in my favor. We set up a time to meet at the apartment the next day so I could measure and just to see it again.

I can't wait to move in - the apartment itself is awesome. It was just clearing all these pre-move hurdles that was killing me.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A New Yorker for the reals

I wanted to make sure everything was set before I made another post, since the situation kept changing day to day. It is now confirmed - I have an apartment! First, here's how I got there.

When we last met, I was panicking and upset because the broker told me the landlord wanted an extra month of security, sending my pre-move in amount due into the stratosphere. And probably beyond what I could afford. On Sunday night I came up with a plan to ask for 6 months to pay the additional security with the promise of sending the deposit from my current place straight to the new one. I started looking into sublets on Craigslist and scheduled two new views for Monday. I might be back to square 1.

Come Monday morning I dreaded making the phone call but had to do it. I called the broker and asked a question to break the ice and test the waters. Then I launched into my well-planned speech about how I was good for the money but I needed more time for this unexpected...she interrupted me to say there was only one month of security. Wha? I told her what she had said the night before and she laughed and apologized - her mistake. I laughed too out of relief. Man, I think I got a few gray hairs from that one. But I'm not going to complain. I called my sister to tell her the good news and canceled my views.

There was the other side to balance though. When I was worried about coming up with the extra security I also became worried that I was overextending myself. Once I sell my car I'll be fine, but I am a bit apprehensive about the first couple of months of living in the city while still making car payments. I really hope my car sells quickly. My main concern is that this is out of my control - it could sell in 15 days or it could not sell for a year. I could try selling it to a dealer but I'd lose $3000 so that is a last resort.

I calculated and recalculated my expenses 10 times and everytime came out with spending money to spare. That calmed me down some. Tuesday was lease-signing day and I kept waffling all day Monday - don't sign the lease, sign the lease, yes, no, etc.

I went to see two places on a long lunch - first a $1625/mo rent-stabilized by-owner studio at 79th and 1st Ave. It took me about 20 minutes just to get there between the 6 and a walk from Lex to 1st. Man, that block between 2nd and 1st Aves is long up there, like the block between 6th and 7th Aves. in Flatiron/Union Sq./Chelsea area. The ad said "huge windows" and "high ceilings" so I predicted small and old appliances and I was not disappointed. Smaller than the place I was signing the lease for. No dishwasher. Old cabinets - one missing a door. Small holes by the baseboard - critter central. A dark, dingy, green-tiled bathroom. Oh, and it was on the 3rd floor of a walk-up. The super was an older man with Eastern European roots. He seemed nice enough and was disappointed when I wasn't interested. I felt kind of bad but there was no way.

I ended up catching a cab to the other place - a "large, loft-style studio" on the Upper West Side for $1650/mo. The market is heating up with college students heading back into town, and there hasn't been anything under $1600 on CL the past week or so below Washington Heights. I was intrigued by photos of the kitchen. $8 later, I was at 73rd and West End Ave in a non-doorman elevator building. I went up to the 5th floor and met the broker. Earlier, I'd spent 15 minutes convincing him I'd already been to Citi Habitats to fill out an application. He opened the door and led me in to a cute place. It wasn't huge, maybe 250-300 sq. feet, but it was open as he'd promised. That meant the kitchen was out in the living area, which I'm not too fond of. A breakfast bar separated it somewhat...though I have a super cute pub table that I really don't want to get rid of. The kitchen had white subway tiling with a black cap - a look I am quite fond of. The cabinets were white and the appliances were black. The full-sized fridge was nice and it made the apartment look bright.

There were two random columns in the middle of the apartment which would have been tough to work around. Soffits for pipes maybe? I touched both but neither was warm. It's summer though so that doesn't mean much. There were two large windows in the apartment with a river view meaning hot apartment at dusk, little light in the morning. Meh. Then we saw the closet - I mean the bathroom. Holy crap it was tiny. No tub. You could wash your hands in the sink while sitting on the toilet, and I think a male would have a hard time getting proper distance. I felt claustrophobic and it was dark as hell - painted dark brown or something. No thanks.

I parted ways with the broker and realized I had no idea what subway lines were nearby - UWS wasn't one of the places I had really looked in. I ended up catching another cab. $15 later, I was back at work. I've been working late to make up for the time I've been missing so I felt pretty wiped. At the end of a long day, I cruised Craigslist one last time to see what was out there. I couldn't find anything that looked better than what I'd found. Enough worrying, I needed to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.